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Author Interview: Sara Bennett Wealer

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I finished Rival earlier this year and liked it so much that I just had to ask Sara for an interview. Being awesome as ever, she agreed (cue squealing). She's amazing, she can sing, act, and write. For those of you who don't know her... here's a brief bio I stole from her site.

I grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (the “Little Apple”), where I sang in choir, wrote for the MHS “Mentor,” and had a couple of leads in the high school musical. I majored in voice performance at the University of Kansas before deciding I had no business trying to make a career as an opera singer. I then transferred to journalism school, where nobody cares if you can hit a high C or convincingly portray a Valkyrie.

I now live in Cincinnati with my husband, daughters, and more cats than any family reasonably needs. When not writing novels, I write ad copy, live presentations and articles for newspapers and magazines. I’ve even helped design theme parks! And when my schedule allows, I still like to sing—most recently you may have heard me in the May Festival Chorus, the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

And for those of you who haven't read Rival yet (where the hell have you been?), here's something else I stole.

Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.

Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.

The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.

As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life?

Okay, so most our followers probably know I’ve been practically rolling in dystopias currently. What can I say? There haven’t been many contemporary novels for me to read. So, in this market filled with anything-but-contemporary, why do you think RIVAL has been so popular as a contemporary?

I think it's catching peoples' interest because it deals with music/the arts, which is a topic you don't see all that often--although that's changing! There are some wonderful arts-related YAs coming out this year, and some more-recent favorites have dealt with the arts, though perhaps not as overtly as RIVAL. I'm also hearing from readers that they like how my characters are focused on activities, school, succeeding and, of course, each other, as opposed to being heavily focused on boys. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE a good romance, and RIVAL definitely has a little, but this is really a story about friendship

I love a good romance too, but Rival being mainly centered on friendships certainly was refreshing. Speaking of friendships and rivals, do you have a "Brooke" in real life?

I guess the easy answer would be yes, and I have been a Brooke, too. Rather than base my characters on real people, I more based my characters' relationships on what I remembered from being active in the arts in high school. I had a few rivals, and I remember how complicated some of those friendships became. I was never as fixated on another person as Brooke and Kathryn are on each other, but I have strong memories of wishing I could connect better with someone but not knowing how, especially when that other person was a competitor.

Sara in the Pops Choir--her school's version of Glee
Well, I have a few rivals too—but then again, doesn’t everybody? I heard that even Rival had rivals too. You had three other books written before Rival was published. Will any of those ever see the light of day?

I really, really hope so! One of them I know will never be published because it was my "learning" novel (and it sucks!). One of them may find a home if my agent and I can figure out how to fix some of its flaws and market it. The third one, which I actually finished as I was waiting for RIVAL to come out, is a book I really like and believe in. It's about sorority rush, and it's still getting looked at. I have my fingers crossed!

My fingers are crossed too! And wow, sounds like you’ve been writing a lot. How did you feel when you—finally!—got published after so many years of writing?

Relieved and validated. It feels wonderful to achieve a goal knowing you worked your butt off for it. Trying to get published can be grueling and heartbreaking, so you have to appreciate what a big deal it is to finally see your book in print. Then you move onto your next goal, which is seeing another book in print. Lather, rinse, repeat!

I’ll definitely take your “Lather, rinse, repeat” advice for my hair after I swim. We all want to see our books in print, so for those of us unpublished, do you have any advice for that too?

Work on your novel every day, even if it's just 500 words a night. Learn to finish a book. And then, be willing (and eager) to listen to critique, rip things up and revise so your book is the best it can be. When you're ready to look for an agent/publisher, don't give up. If one book doesn't sell, write another.

Great advice, if a book doesn’t sell, write another. Even though Rival sold (really well, may I add), are you writing another book currently? Are there any WIPs that we can look forward to?

I have a short piece in the DEAR BULLY anthology that's coming out in September with HarperCollins. And then I'm working on a project I'm really excited about. I don't want to reveal the concept, but it has contemporary, supernatural and dystopian elements.

Ooh! Dystopian! I swear, I’m addicted to the genre. I can’t wait!
Just to round things off, some quick-fire questions (also known as random questions off the top of my head):

Coffee or tea? I love coffee but am trying to drink more green tea, so, reluctantly, my answer is tea.
Laptop or netbook? Laptop at home, netbook when I travel.
RIVAL playlist? Right here:

Thanks so much for the interview, Sara! Is there anything else you want us to know?

Just that I'm so grateful to the bloggers and readers who've loved RIVAL and helped spread the word about it. It means everything to know that my story is connecting with people. Thank you!

Bloggers and readers who’ve loved Rival… hmm… I think that’ll be me. Sorry, that was my ego speaking.

Don't forget to check out my review of Rival and the mega-awesome giveaway Sara's so kindly offered! (It's a copy of Rival. Signed! I'm almost tempted to enter and win it for myself!)


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29 comments on "Author Interview: Sara Bennett Wealer"
  1. Thanks for the interview! Love that she can dance and sing.. *sighs* I'm stealing her super powers!

    Look forward to reading Rival and her other work :) Most definitely look forward to reading a novel that's focused on friendship!

  2. Count me in! xD No, really, a book that is not so focused on love but on friendship instead? That is truly refreshing, and I like that.

    Great interview, really. This books is now in my TBR list.


  3. Wooo! She's from Kansas! I'm from KC, but I have friends in Manhattan and at KU! Whoot whoot! Huzzah for Kansans!

  4. Great interview (and uh adding the Q about the playlist, always love finding more music to go with books!)
    Can't wait to read this book!

  5. Ughhh she's living the life I want! :) Thanks for the interview :D

  6. I liked that point that was made about RIVAL being focused on friendship, extracurriculars, etc. I always feel a little incredulous about most YA I read in which the characters never seem to be involved in anything with their school. I mean, maybe that's just me because I AM involved but still.

    Thanks for the great interview! :) Definitely looking forward to reading this one.

  7. It's always so hard for me to start any of the stories I begin. haha. Thank you for this interview!

  8. Such a fun interview! Now I am off to check out the playlist.

  9. Interesting a vocalist turned writer. maybe there's hope for me yet lol! Great interview!

  10. love author interviews! What a beautiful smile she has.

  11. Great interview. I kind of want to read the book even more now that I've read your interaction with her - fun lady, it seems. I love that she's multitalented with the dancing and singing.

  12. Awesome interview. I've never heard of this book until now but I totally want to read it.

  13. Haha, I've been addicted to dystopian novels for so long. I know what you mean when you're trying to read something new.

    I think it's really cool that some writers have a novel for themselves, one that's almost like a practice worksheet for them, so they could know the feel of writing a book. And I am nodding in agreement to her writing advice. (;

    I'm surprised at how many writers have playlists for their writing. Me, I just play whatever I have on my iPod or radio. :\

    That was a pretty neat interview, and Sara Bennett Wealer seems so sweet and kind! And your questions were great too!


  14. Interesting and informative interview! I was struck by the fact mentioned in Sara's bio that she helped design theme parks. I think that's super-awesome! I appreciate the advice on sticking to working on your book each day and writing at least 500 words. I hope to be a published author some day but do not have the guts to commit to writing a book right now.


  15. Thanks so much for the interview! I've got to check out this playlist!!

  16. Awesome interview. I like how Sara wrote other books before she found an agent. That gives me some hope for my own writing :)

    And I have a learning novel too which I refer to as my book of suck :P

  17. I loved the interview. Great insight thank you.


  18. -Amazing interview! And I agree with her, it did catch my attention because it deals with the art. You rarely see books discussing those topics nowadays. :]

    Thanks for the interview!


  19. Great interview! I just saw the RIVAL playlist and it's great!

  20. I wish I could dance and sing :p Sara sounds like a lot of fun :)

  21. She is so pretty!
    She has been a Brooke in her life too?! I really wanna read the book now! I like books with art/music

  22. Uh great that you are writing a book with paranormal, contemp AND dystopian elements in it, consider me curious!

  23. Great interview; the Brit in me is pleased Sara chose Tea :)

  24. I really enjoyed the interview. This really does look very good.


  25. What an awesome interview! It's even more special because I live in Columbus, which is only a couple of hours from Cincinnati, and I would love to see Sara perform with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra! I will definitely be following that:)

    jwitt33 at live dot com


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